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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/843

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THE FELICITY OF NATURALISTS.

air and amid natural beauties, but the naturalist is never out of them; he is lucky who adds aught to the knowledge of his fellow-man, but the naturalist can not stir without making an addition to it; he is most favored whose occupation forces him to think of greater things than itself, who, like the astronomer, must, in order to learn, for ever look upward—and where is the naturalist without ever-present piety of some kind? It is very comic to hear that Mr. Buckland rejected evolution, because "my father was Dean of Westminster; I was bred in the principles of Church and state, and I will never admit it"; but the thought which prompted that half-humorous, half-serious expression of his faith was not comic at all. He could not, as naturalist, stand a theory which struck him (quite erroneously) as dispensing with, or even affronting, a sentient First Cause. The child in him—which in Mr. Buckland, as in every man who loves Nature with a single heart, was very strong—revolted, and grew pettish.

There is something, however, in the naturalist's pursuit besides happiness which gives him his tribal qualities, those always found with his pursuit, and it is a little difficult to decide quite satisfactorily what it is. It is not the pursuit of knowledge in itself. Scholars and metaphysicians, and men of the sciences which relate to other things than outdoor nature, physicians, for instance, and electricians, are not like the naturalists at all. Indeed, we do not quite know why the pursuit of knowledge of itself should tend to good any more than any other indulgence of curiosity. Nor is it all the open air, for the men who next to the naturalists live most in that, agricultural peasants, belong to a far removed type of men. Nor is it a certain innocence and permanent absence of sinister temptation which attaches to the pursuit, for many pursuits—antiquarianism, for instance—are quite as innocent yet evolve a totally different order of mind, a mind often very much more reflective and less simple. Naturalists, too, are of necessity incessantly killing, and constant though innocent killing seems, as in butchers, rather to brutalize than to refine the general character. Butchers' boys are not breezy people at all, nor, for that matter, are fishmongers or poulterers. The goodness of naturalists, like the serenity of Arctic voyagers, is of a kind per se, a quality which we scarcely discover in any other class, a benevolence quite unfailing and almost Christlike in persons otherwise very human indeed.

May it not be that the instinct of mankind is true—that Nature, an undeteriorated work of God, has in it something better than man, and in close contact with the mind gives that something out? It may be said that we do not find this result in the savage, even if he be Hawaian or Guacho—that is, even if he lives always amid scenes of unfailing beauty; but that is because the savage's mind is closed to the necessary contact. But we do find it in the sportsman, who, even if in other ways objectionable, or even brutalized by the constant and objectless slaughter of things more beautiful than himself, has often in